How to Tell an Anxiety Attack from a Panic Attack "You Coming?"  courtesy of Giuseppe MilYou have probably read about anxiety and panic attacks or heard people talking about them. You might even have wondered whether the stress you experienced was an anxiety attack or a panic attack. But what do these terms really mean? Are they just different ways of saying the same thing?

What is an Anxiety Attack?

Let’s start by taking a look at “Anxiety Attacks” and clarifying out what it means to have one. What does an anxiety attack consist of? While it is often confused with a panic attack, an anxiety attack is actually a separate, and less severe, form of anxiety. This is certainly not to say that it is not unpleasant, however. People who experience anxiety attacks often feel a surge of mental tension (aka stress) and can feel irritable. They may have difficulty concentrating and may tighten their muscles (such as in clenching your teeth). They may also have difficulty relaxing (or falling asleep). If you are like most people, you have probably experienced some of these things at some point in your life. Anxiety attacks are triggered by different things for different people. They can occur at any frequency, from once to continuously. For some people, anxiety attacks are triggered by social situations, while for others, they are triggered by a specific fear, such as spiders or needles. However, for most people it is just the general stress of life that causes anxiety attacks. Things like bills, issues at work, tension in relationships, and any number of other stresses can potentially trigger an anxiety attack.

What is a Panic Attack?

On the other hand, while panic attacks can still be triggered by any number of things in the same way as an anxiety attack, they are a bit more serious. Panic attacks often cause the person experiencing them to become almost unable to function. They tend to occur less frequently than anxiety attacks and often last for relatively short periods of time (roughly 15-60 minutes). Given the severity of their effects, this is rather fortunate. People who experience panic attacks often have a sudden sensation that they are choking or that they are short of breath. They often also begin to feel their heart pounding, feel nauseous, feel an electrical type of sensation in their body, and develop a fear that they are losing control of their mind or that they are dying. In addition, some people who experience panic attacks have what one might call an “out-of-body experience,” in which they feel as if they are looking at themselves as a spectator, or feel that what they are experiencing is not reality. These are clearly serious symptoms and are not something to be taken lightly or brushed aside.

How Can Christian Counseling Help with Panic or Anxiety Attacks?  "Nice Big Sign of Hope," Courtesy of D
If you have experienced any of these concerns, and especially if you experience them on an ongoing basis or if they are interfering with your life in some way, I would encourage you make an appointment to meet for an evaluation. As a Christian counselor, I am convinced that we have been created in the image of God. However, we live in a fallen world in which sin and disease rob us of the perfect happiness and communion for which we were created. This means that we experience the hardship of exposure to things that we were not intended for. This hardship can have lasting and painful effects, which includes anxiety and panic.

If you feel that you can relate to what you have read here, I encourage you to seek a supportive and knowledgeable Christian counselor who will be able to understand your concerns and work with you in order to restore a sense of peace and happiness in your life.

May God bless you richly.